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Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects

Queen’s Park Crescent, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


The Gardiner is one of the keystones of the cultural renaissance of Toronto. The city’s cultural quarter has been re-inventing itself over the past decade; the Gardiner is opposite the Libeskind-extended Royal Ontario Museum and round the corner from the Royal Conservatory of Music.

When Keith Wagland designed the Ceramics Museum in 1983 he made it future-proof by giving it a structure that would allow for upward expansion. Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg have taken advantage – and side-stepped numerous planning constraints, including protected views of an adjacent neo-classical building – by putting the 14,000 square foot extension on top of the old museum. The extra space hosts a new gallery for large-scale contemporary works, better storage, a new studio and facilities for the museum’s research and community-outreach activities. The existing building was re-configured to throw the focus on the fine collection of ceramics.

The old and new work is all of a piece; the original pink granite cladding has been replaced by a stylish cream limestone, which complements the sleek glass and black granite columns. The scheme is further knitted together by some understated landscaping.

Internally the removal of a staircase in the entrance hall was the move which unlocked a series of solutions. The shop could move to the front to tempt in passers-by and circulation could be improved with a new lift/stair tower. Additionally a former underground car park was dug out to provide the extra metre of headroom for new ceramic studios and, above all this, on the roof of the second floor, a terrace was created serving the third-floor pavilion. The whole scheme successfully adopts a palette of materials and textures that subtly comment on the nature of the ceramic exhibits.

Client: Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art
Structural Engineer: Halsall Associates
Mechanical Engineers: Crossey Engineering
Exhibition Designers: PS Design
Contractor: Urbacon
Contact value: $10m Canadian
Date of occupation: June 2006
Gross internal area: 4,299 sq m

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